Aldermen eye budgets with no rate increases

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 13, 2008

For the time being, Brookhaven residents do not need to worryabout another increase in solid waste or water and sewer fees inthe 2009 budget, aldermen said Tuesday night at their second budgetwork session.

Aldermen went over a budget list put together by Mayor BobMassengill and City Clerk Mike Jinks, discussing a $26,000 cashbalance that will go toward the projected $33,000 deficit in thetentative $1.34 million solid waste budget. Jinks said the citywill have enough carryover funds to handle it without having tocharge city customers.

The deficit came for the most part when the rates went up duringthe year, as Waste Management is allowed to raise rates every timethe cost of fuel goes up 10 percent. City officials said when WasteManagement had estimated they’d be going up 50 cents, the cityraised rates 50 cents per household per month. But then WasteManagement raised their rates 72 cents.

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“So we’re eating that extra 22 cents,” Massengill said.

Meanwhile, as the talks went on about the solid waste budget,Ward Six Alderman David Phillips brought up the fact that somecities around the country are using methane gas produced by theirlandfills to produce energy.

“It’s worth looking into,” he said. “There are places all overthe country using landfill gas, and while we don’t know if ourswould produce enough methane, I can envision potentially using thegarbage we’re spending money to haul to Natchez and instead mine itfor methane.”

Massengill said there is a closed landfill where the city hadonce discussed putting their sludge from the wastewater treatmentplant.

“That could be a mining source,” he said. “We don’t need tostart the procedure right now, but we can definitely start thinkingabout it.”

Phillips asked that some extra money be put into the budget todo a study on whether or not the methane fuel option is a viableone for Brookhaven. Aldermen discussed adding $12,000 into thegeneral funds budget to research alternative fuel sources, sayingthey would go further in depth in that discussion at a future worksession.

The board discussed how the solid waste department workers areon the streets working in all weather, and that department directorWillie Smith had only asked for money for a new boom truck and abulldozer.

While there is not money in this year’s budget for the $350,000bulldozer, aldermen agreed that a boom truck is needed and would beprovided for in the budget.

The tentative $2.76 million water and sewer department budgetbrought other discussion, as Massengill said the cost the city ischarging for water taps is well under what they actually cost toinstall. Massengill said based on the numbers he had, the cost toinstall a 1-inch tap is around $1,107, but the city only charges$500. He said the $1,107 did not include the cost of the dumptruck, the gravel or the truck operator.

“We’re getting far less than our money back,” he said. “Whensomeone requests water and sewer, we’re only collecting a portionof that fee.”

Massengill said in talks with Water Department Director LannyDickey, it seemed that a significant increase in what is requiredon water taps would make sense, but that it was up to the decisionof the board.

“This would affect new customers, but doesn’t affect the currentcustomers,” he said.

Jinks agreed, adding that going up on the one-time fee wouldkeep water rates from going up. He pointed out to the board thatlast year the city spent $65,000 installing water taps and onlymade $31,000 back.

“This way we wouldn’t have to raise the fees. Someone’s got topay the difference,” he said.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates pointed out that perhaps the ratesshouldn’t go up because it could be considered an investment in anew customer and taxpayer. Massengill said the issue did not haveto be solved at Tuesday night’s work session.

“If we can come up with something, it would really put us ingood shape on our bottom line,” he said.

Meanwhile, Massengill said, the city needs to replace up toeight fire hydrants as well.

“We’d love to replace as many as 18, but we can’t swing that,”he said. “We have a lot of old fire hydrants, and we’ve been tryingto go through the wards and find the worst ones.”

Jinks said the cost of operations projected for the water andsewer department for 2009 is $1.74 million.

“But by no means is any of this official yet,” he said.